Editor’s Note: This article is part of TheHorse.com’s ongoing coverage of topics presented at the British Equine Veterinary Association’s 51st annual Congress, held Sept. 12-15 in Birmingham, U.K.


In recent years, the sport horse industry has seen an increase in artificial arena surfaces used for both training and for competition. While previous studies have shown that some of these surfaces’ features can increase a horse’s risk of injury, scientists have yet to determine the mechanism by which these injuries occur.

A team of researchers from the Animal Health Trust (AHT), in Newmarket, England; the College of West Anglia, in Cambridge, England; and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences recently compared the effects of arena maintenance on mechanical properties of two arena surface types. Vicki Walker, MSc, from the AHT, presented the study findings on behalf of the group (including Carolyne Tranquille, BSc, and Rachel Murray, MA, VetMB, MS, PhD, MRCVS, Dipl. ACVS, ECVS, both from the AHT) at the British Equine Veterinary Association’s 51st annual Congress, held Sept. 12-15, in Birmingham.

"Epidemiological data has shown that regular (working surface) maintenance has been found to decrease the risk of injury," said Walker.

For instance, researchers have determined superficial harrowing decreases compaction and resulting hardness of dirt, sand, and woodchip surfaces, she explained. It also increases the evenness and uniformity of dirt and woodchip surfaces. And watering sand-based surfaces has been shown to increase their firmness, providing greater stability for